Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dig Deep To Make Ambitious Resolutions Stick

Are you making one or more ambitious New Year's resolutions?  If you hope to change a long-held habit or deeply ingrained behavior, you will have to dig deep.  In essence, you're job is to persuade yourself that the change is more than just a good idea.  It is worthy of true commitment that makes sense and resonates with what you believe about yourself and what you value so that you can develop a new day-to-day attitude to support the new behavior.  If you don't think it through in this way, you risk fighting with yourself to make the resolution stick.  You will be of two minds.  Part of you wants to change, but there is a part of you that remains unconvinced.  This conflict usually leads to failed resolutions.  You simply wear yourself out trying to do something that you don't believe in 100%.

Except for trivial matters, almost all of your choices and based on the network of beliefs, attitudes, and values that has grown in depth and complexity over time, sometimes years, sometimes over the course of your entire life.  As an example, you might resolve to fill up your car at a different gas station because of something you have recently learned about your old favorite's environmental practices. If you feel strongly enough about this issue, you will effortlessly change your routine.  

To keep this real, you do not need professional counseling or deep soul searching to break every bad habit or to start something new and beneficial. Sometimes behavior change can lead to a new attitude.  Sometimes, through sheer force of will you can develop a new habit that will produce its own reward in how you feel and think.  Your might find that willpower alone is enough to get into an effective exercise routine.  You start to see physical benefits.  You feel better.  You automatically convince yourself that it is worth the time and effort and stick with it.  

Whatever your situation and whatever your resolutions may be, don't agonize about them.  If they're a good idea, just go.  Get started.  But if you have tried and failed to do the same thing in the past, take some time to dig deep and work out why your were not successful.  What change do you have to make in your thoughts and feelings foundation to build the proper support for your new choices?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thinking Ahead About New Year's Resolutions That Stick

If you’re like me at all, you may have made any number of New Year’s resolutions over the years, only to fail miserably at keeping them, sometimes after some weeks or months, sometimes after only days.  So how do we make resolutions that we will keep?  It helps to start thinking about them now, instead of coming up with a spur-of-the-moment good idea on December 31.  So, what makes an idea a “better idea” and one that is more likely to stick?  Most of our hasty resolutions are based only on the anticipated benefits.  We fall short when we run into the costs of keeping the resolution, costs that we are unprepared to pay.  Sometimes we lack the necessary support in our family and social circles.  Sometimes, we just don’t believe in ourselves.  We expect ourselves to fail.

Here are five questions.  Ask yourself each of them and answer honestly.  Then you will have a well thought-out resolution that will lead to a permanent and meaningful change in behavior.

  1. What are the benefits?  These are the same things that come to mind when we come up with those good ideas that don’t last.  The difference however is this.  Spend a little time thinking through all of the benefits, not just the obvious ones, short term and long term. Sell yourself on the benefits.  Make a good case.
  2. What are the costs?  What is it going to cost you in time, effort, discomfort and inconvenience to see this through?  Prepare yourself to accept whatever sacrifices will come your way.
  3. What about other people?  What are others going to have to do to support me in this?  What changes must my family make?  My coworkers?  Others?  Will they be supportive?  How do you get them behind you?  As you line up support, you also create beneficial external pressure to stick with your plan.
  4. What do you think about yourself?  Think about your ability to follow through and make positive change in your life.  Where have you had success in the past?  Envision repeating that success.  Make a plan to incorporate what went right and to avoid what went wrong. 
  5. Is your goal realistic?  This is both the first and the last question.  Don’t make resolutions that are beyond anybody’s realistic ability to achieve.  Don’t try to lose 100 pounds by Valentine’s Day.  Create a plan to lose weight gradually and safely through sustainable changes in your habits.  Are you deeply in debt?  You probably won’t dig your way out by March, but you can resolve to make a two-year or three-year plan and to live with a spending plan that is below your income.  The surest way to fail is to attempt the impossible. 

In short…five actions:

  • Plan a realistic goal.
  • Focus on every way that you and others will benefit.
  • Be prepared for the costs and to make the necessary sacrifices. 
  • Enlist the support of others.
  • Believe in yourself.